Getting Published: The Goal and Process

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In my last post, I mentioned that I was working on a book, using Google Docs to write it from various locations. The book is coming along fairly well, and is about a third of the way through the first revision. But, because I'm the geek that I am, I wanted to know how I could get the darn thing published when I got it done.

Well, it seems that there are a number of steps that one needs to take to get published within the world of fiction and non-fiction. From what I've researched, it's a difficult process being handled by several people that remove the writer from the publisher. Here are the steps that are recommended by those in the publishing world:

Write the Book
The first step is to write the blasted thing first. Finish the manuscript, and revise it as much as you can. The idea here is to make it look as sellable as possible at first look. Also, be sure you format the book correctly. The most common font used is Courier, the font size is 12 pt. You also want to double space the pages, to make it easier for the agent and publisher to read and review.

Next, determine how long your book is going to be, by number of words. There are two schools of thought here as to how to count the number of words, but if you use the word processor word count, you should be fine. If you are writing a novel, you want to be between 60,000 to 120,000 words for a first book. This isn't a set rule, but a general rule of thumb. At 4,000 words per chapter, and 20 chapters, you would be doing well at just about the middle ground. If you find your book is too short, you could submit it as a novella, or a short story. Otherwise, you may want to look into the story again, add some sub-plots, develop the sub-plots a little more, etc. That can add more depth to your story, and more words to your word count. ^_^

The Query Letter
Now that you have written your book, have a good story, nice word count, and formatted the manuscript, it's time to look for reputation. This means finding an agent. Why an agent you ask? Because it's their job to pitch books to publishers, which can be a lengthy process for a writer to try themselves, and they are more likely to get the book published than a writer trying to get it out there.

The Query letter needs to be formatted a specific way, much like a business pitch to your boss. No one is going to read the full 80 pages of research done to support change, unless your boss literally has nothing else to do. The same with an agent. They get hundreds of submissions a day, and often judge the book by the query letter. Nathan Bransford has a really good description of how to write a query letter that he considers amazing. Check out his blog, and you will see why he will be the agent of choice once my manuscript is ready for review. ^_^

The Partial and the Manuscript
If your agent likes the query, they will often ask for a partial. THis is usually the first 30 pages or so of the book. If you have already provided the first couple pages on a website somewhere, you can mention that in the Query letter, and bypass the partial request. Once they read the partial, like what they see, then they move on and ask for the manuscript.

Once the manuscript is at the agents, they will read through it and do some preliminary editing. This is pretty much at the discretion of the agent, and at no time is the agent entitled to give you any feedback on your work. Please remember that before you threaten their lives, or the lives of their family when they just tell you that they can't or won't publish your work.

To the Publisher
If everything is ready, then they will send it on to a publisher, and try to get the interest there to publish the book. There are a number of months involved in this process, so don't be surprised if you have heard nothing for months on end. That generally means that the agent is busy trying to get it pitched correctly, and get the manuscript printed. Now would be a good time to start another writing project, if you have nothing else to do.

On the Shelves!
If the stars are in alignment, and the planets are favorable, then the book is then published. At that point, you can relax, right? Wrong! If you have a good agent, they will most likely be asking you about your next book, and what other projects you have planned for.

Anyway, I thought I would add these little gems of wisdom that I have gleaned since I started writing my book for publication. Hopefully they will be of help to any other new writer, particularly if you are looking to start for the first time. For my credits, I would like to thank Nathan Bransford for having such an informative blog, and the good writers at the Absolute Write Forums for providing a lot of this information. It really takes the mystique out of the writing and publishing business.